LSU will start freshman pitcher Landon Marceaux against Stony Brook on Friday night.
As the Tigers begin their NCAA regional, coach Paul Mainieri doesn't want his players to overlook the No. 4 seed Seawolves.
The top seed in the regional often uses its best pitcher during its second game. But Mainieri chose Marceaux, who has a 1.45 ERA over his last three starts and has rediscovered his confidence since returning from an injury.
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"I think we need to pitch one of our better, top guys," Mainieri said. "I think Landon's been pitching as well as anybody. I feel like he has the best chance to get us off to a good start this weekend."
Brandt Broussard spent the past week nursing his right arm, but LSU plans for him to start the NCAA regional.
Arm injuries delayed Marceaux's development into the stud LSU boasted about during preseason practice. His arm ached for about six weeks in the middle of the season, eliminating starts and crushing his confidence. He had never dealt with an injury that kept him out more than than a week.
After Marceaux's arm injury flared during a poor start against Southern, junior Zack Hess repeated advice he had told him throughout the season.
"Man, go out and be who you are," Hess told him. "Don't try to be something you're not."
For Marceaux, that meant relying on ground balls and the defense behind him, not striking out every batter. He needed to stop trying to make perfect pitches. The message clicked in Marceaux's head.
"Here it is," Marceaux said. "Hit it if you can. If you do, tip my cap. If you don't, sit down."
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Marceaux regained confidence when he shutout Lamar for three innings. He sustained momentum as he reentered the weekend rotation. After a rocky start against Ole Miss, he beat Arkansas to snap LSU's five-game losing streak.
In Marceaux's last two starts, both against Auburn, he has pitched into the seventh inning. He has allowed one earned run. And though he has not tried to blow his pitches past everybody, his strikeout numbers have gone up while his walks have decreased.
When Mainieri watched Stony Brook on television during the bracket reveal, he saw a team that wore matching polos and khakis standing to cheer. He thought the Seawolves looked disciplined, enthusiastic, energetic — like a team that wouldn't give in against LSU.
So Mainieri decided to pitch Marceaux, LSU's most effective starter the last month.
Trent Vietmeier last pitched May 10 against Arkansas.
"The worst thing we can do is look beyond the first game," Mainieri said. "I can assure you, that's not going to happen."
Mainieri told Marceaux about his decision on Wednesday, reminding him to feel confident and throw strikes, that if Mainieri didn't believe in him, he wouldn't have picked him.
The next morning, Marceaux smiled as he answered questions. His freshman season hasn't been perfect, but he learned how to pitch on the collegiate level.
"I'm really excited," Marceaux said. "I'm not nervous at all. No reason to be. This is the game I've been playing since I was 4 years old. Go out and do what I can, keep us in the ball game, try to get us a win."